BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A research team led by University at Buffalo chemists has used synchrotron light sources to observe the electron clouds on the surface of graphene, producing a series of images that reveal how folds and ripples in the remarkable material can harm its conductivity.
The research, scheduled to appear June 28 in Nature Communications, was conducted by UB, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and SEMATECH, a global consortium of semiconductor manufacturers.
Graphene, the thinnest and strongest material known to man, consists of a single layer of carbon atoms linked in a honeycomb-like arrangement.
Graphene's special structure makes it incredibly conductive: Under ideal circumstances, when graphene is completely flat, electric charges speed through it without encountering many obstacles, said Sarbajit Banerjee, one of the UB researchers who led the study in Nature Communications.
But conditions are not always optimal.
The new images that Banerjee and his colleagues captured show that when graphene is folded or bent, the electron cloud lining its surface also becomes warped, making it more difficult for an electric charge to travel through.
"When graphene is flat, things just kind of coast along the cloud. They don't have to hop across anything. It's like a superhighway," said Banerjee, an assistant professor of chemistry. "But if you bend it, now there are some obstacles; imagine the difference between a freshly paved highway and one with construction work along the length forcing lane changes.
"When we imaged the electron cloud, you can imagine this big fluffy pillow, and we saw that the pillow is bent here and there," said Banerjee, whose National Science Foundation CAREER award provided the primary funding for the project.
To create the images and understand the factors pert
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